Government rolls out public housing reform

JOSH FAGAN
Last updated 18:59 13/04/2014

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West Auckland will be at the frontier of the government’s new public housing reforms.

The changes, coming into effect tomorrow, give community housing providers greater access to money to subsidise people in desperate need of a home.

It means non-government groups can offer income-related rents for tenants for the first time.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said it would allow more diverse housing options for people on the waiting list, and make houses more affordable.

“It means significant savings for those renting the houses, with the state picking up a bigger part of the bill for them,” she said.

The government has set a target for 20 per cent of the country’s social housing to be provided by non-government organisations by 2017. Currently there are about 1200, but Minister for Housing Nick Smith said he wants that number to rise to 12,000.

Many of those new projects will be in West Auckland – where about 1200 of the 5500 people on the national state house waiting list live.

Vision West Community Trust – one of 32 registered community housing providers – welcomed the “historic announcement”.

Chief executive Lisa Woolley said it would make a huge difference for people living in unstable housing situations.

 “Up to now our houses have been rented out at 80 per cent market value," she said.

"This means tenants can be coming in and paying much reduced rent.”

Ms Woolley said West Auckland long-been an area in need of more housing options.

“About 10 years ago we had so many people coming to us that were in dire housing need. People living in cars, living under houses, living in over-crowded houses… As a trust we felt we needed to do something about that.”

Smith said the move toward community housing represented “greater value for money”.

“We find with our community housing organisations they are able to deliver a lot more houses with that money.”

The changes come on the back of recommendations in the 2010 Home and Housed: A Vision of Social Housing New Zealand report.

Other reforms to be introduced tomorrow will see greater responsibility handed from Housing New Zealand to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

MSD will become a “one-stop shop” for eligibility assessments of tenants, tenancy reviews and managing the public housing waiting list, Bennett said.

“It means they won’t have to be telling government twice,” she said.

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“One of the most exciting things for me, is that it will also be looking at more than their housing needs, and looking at jobs, what schools their children are in, and other social supports.”

MSD will also carry out a review of about 800 tenants in July, looking at living circumstances and seeing whether they can be relocated, or moved out of the state housing system altogether.

“Those who can move out and move on will be encouraged and supported to do so,” Bennett said.

- Fairfax Media

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